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Tom Wolf is Governor-Elect: What It Means for Arts & Culture

On Tuesday, November 4, Pennsylvanians elected Tom Wolf to serve as the 47th governor of Pennsylvania. The Cultural Alliance has had a great relationship with the Corbett Administration, especially Mrs. Corbett who serves as the Chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and we look forward to working with the Wolf Administration during the transition period and when he takes office in January.

Back in April, the Cultural Alliance asked each of the democratic candidates to answer seven questions relating to cultural policy. We thought it would be helpful to re-post Tom Wolf's interview:

CA: Funding for Grants to the Arts, through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, has received a 47% cut since 2008.  These grants reach non-profit arts organizations in all 67 counties, in both rural and urban communities and organizations both small and large.  The program is currently funded at $8.179 million and ranks 24th nationally in per capita funding at $0.71.  With the exception of West Virginia, all the states contiguous to Pennsylvania rank higher.  Would you support an increase, over the next three years, to $1.66 per capita which represents the average of the per capita number of the states bordering the Commonwealth?  Why or why not?

TW: I know Pennsylvania has a vibrant arts and culture sector that enriches the lives of residents and draws millions of visitors to the Commonwealth each year. From my work as a board member with Cultural Alliance of York, WITF, and Historic York, I know this sector also plays an important role in boosting our local economies and helping to drive revitalization of older communities. As governor, I will work to provide adequate State funding to the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. 

CA: In 2009, Governor Rendell cut the $9 million grant-making budget for PHMC for grants to non-state-owned museums and historical sites. In 2013 Governor Corbett created a new line item for Cultural and Historical Support grants to non-state-owned museums and historical sites, which continue to be funded at $2 million. Due to the decrease in funding for the grant program, grants are only issued to museums and historical sites with larger budgets and thus, small non-state-owned organizations are shut out from the process. Would you support an increase in the Cultural and Historical Support grants in order to make it more comparable to the $8.179 million that PCA receives from the state for grant-making?

TW: As governor, I will support reforms to the PHMC programs so that museums and historical sites with budgets of all sizes are able to compete for grant funding. And, as stated above, I will work to provide adequate funding to the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts for the purpose of helping to sustain and grow both state-owned and non-state owned arts and culture organizations.    

CA: There are several bills in the General Assembly that deal with dedicated funding for arts and culture.  These bills direct funds from either the collection of the realty transfer tax or the hotel occupancy sales tax, all revenue from the General Fund, to these dedicated funding streams.  Would you support dedicated funding streams for arts and culture?  How might dedicated funding streams affect arts and culture line items in the state budget?

TW: I believe when we earmark revenues for specific program, we end up playing games with those funds so that we can pay for other priorities. I know it is important that we continue to grow our arts and culture sector and recognize the significant impact it has on the State's economy. As governor, I will work to ensure that appropriate State funding is directed to support this sector.

CA: Currently the arts (visual arts and music) are not considered a core academic subject in Pennsylvania as they are under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Would you support the inclusion of the arts as a core subject? 

TW: We need to raise our youngest residents to think independently, look for creative and innovative solutions to problems, and envision a bright future. I believe that arts and music education is a key component to achieving this goal. As governor, I will work with key stakeholders, including representatives from the art and music community and public schools, to determine how we can efficiently and effectively integrate art and music into K-12 curriculum. 

CA: Would you be supportive of increasing the capacity of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit to target specifically STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) programs in its provisions for contributions to approved Educational Improvement Organizations?

TW: As governor, I will take a look at all of the State's tax credits to ensure we are not just rewarding special interests. While I know the Educational Improvement Tax Credit helps Education Improvement Organizations, it also diverts public tax dollars from our public schools to create a back door voucher system. This concerns me. As, governor, I will take a close look at Educational Improvement Tax Credits and examine how it impacts public education funding before making any changes to it. 

CA: Pennsylvania has been heralded as “Hollywood East.” The state’s Film Production Tax Credit has been responsible for creating 18,000 jobs and generating $2.7 billion in economic activity since 2007.  But with the tax credit cap set at $60 million, Pennsylvania has lost out on blockbuster filming opportunities to states like Massachusetts, which has no cap.  Would you support uncapping the film production tax credit to attract more film business to Pennsylvania?

TW: I believe our tax credits should be used to create good paying, middle class jobs. As governor, I will take a long look at current tax credits--including the Film Production Tax Credit--eliminate those tax subsidies that are not creating the type of jobs needed to turn Pennsylvania around, and focus on those credits that promote long-term, family sustaining jobs. 

CA: 12 states, including Maryland and West Virginia, have formal state policies to incentivize the creation of cultural districts which have been proven to trigger economic development and neighborhood revitalization because of what arts and culture actually does: bring tourist spending, attract creative businesses, increase property values, etc.  Cultural districts, which number 156 nationally, are in both urban and rural settings.  Policies to support the creation of these districts include state tax incentives to leverage local investment in the arts and culture and technical assistance programs.  Is state policy to help create local cultural districts through Pennsylvania an idea you could support?   

TW: As governor, I will work with key stakeholders, including representatives from the arts and culture sector, to assess the needs and benefits of implementing state-sponsored cultural districts in Pennsylvania.